Open Thread

As usually happens when a post blows up like Friday’s Thank You, White People, there is a lot of off-topic chatter that doesn’t need to be there. However, some of that chatter is interesting conversation, it’s just not about what the post is about. So here is an open thread, where people can talk about what they want. I’m moving the whole Jewish as White People thread over here wholesale once I wake up.

52 Responses

  1. Thats crazy ABW. Ive been reading your site for 2 weeks now (I can’t stand your opinions, but keep coming back for more) : )
    Sorry but this post has nothing to do with Jews as I’m not quite sure what the point is.

    But I have never seen so many responses on a post like the previous one. After I read all of them, I didn’t even have it in me to sarcastically post about the topic. I wish we didn’t even have to discuss these issues, as obviously nothing fruitful came of it (just read the 175 posts) So why bother posting about racism, when all it does is push us further apart? Or did you think the previous post was a great start to an open dialogue about racism? Racism clearly exists and is alive and well today, on both sides. Personally I still believe there’s a ways to go, but at the same time I also believe we have made exponential progress every year. We might even have a black president in 09(although I doubt America is ready for it). My main concern is that we’re starting to back-track. Although it’s alot harder to practice racism institutionally through the school systems, private enterprise and the government, each human being can still be racist. My fear is that white people are starting to get pissed off for being accused of still being racist, and having to pay for things we didn’t do. That’s only going to make those white people dislike blacks, which in turn will cause people like you to complain about it (and rightfully so, no one should dislike anyone b/c of their color no matter what they did. It’s not Christ-like at all). I’m not sure what you can do about it, but I really do believe you’re fighting a losing war by trying to get us to apologize or feel bad for what we didn’t do.

    BTW I think white people as a whole are probably more racist than you think towards blacks. I live in rural SC now (grew up in the city til I went to college) and I’d be willing to say 75% of my co-workers, friends, etc. etc. still drop an N-bomb occasionally. As far as I know, none of them use the word when blacks are around, but you catch my drift. It seems like racism has been almost totally removed from institutions (actually it’s been reversed with Aff. Action), but racism still remains in people’s hearts.

    Im sure someone will come along and post:
    “FYI, IM WHITE AND I DONT THINK WE’RE RACIST, I JUST THINK YOU”RE RACIST”

    Save it for another day and stop kissing ABW’s ass. The above was solely my heartfelt opinion and God’s honest truth. Have a great Sunday everyone!

  2. happierthanyou wrote: “I really do believe you’re fighting a losing war by trying to get us to apologize or feel bad for what we didn’t do”

    An apology and feeling bad? That and five bucks will buy lunch at the drive through.

    I’m starting to see that’s how we white people tend to interpret the complaints of the black community. And while we are part of the problem, it’s not about blaming us. It’s calling attention to problems that need to be fixed but which are difficult for us to see.

  3. “It seems like racism has been almost totally removed from institutions (actually it’s been reversed with Aff. Action), but racism still remains in people’s hearts.”

    Totally removed from institutions? I’m in academia. I laugh at this statement.

  4. Ico do you know ALMOST means?

  5. See this is what I’m talking about. You want to have open and honest dialogue about race, but when I express what I see on a day – to – day basis, everyone gets their panties in a bunch and only want to hear about what black people experience. It’s a two-way street folks, and until you understand that, our race relations will continue to be poor, because people like Ico and Adam want to shove their opinions down other people’s throats. Sorry you guys disagree with me, but I’m just being honest. Feel free to label me a bigot, racist whatever. Names are just that ; names.

    So Ico, when did you start representing all of academia? Last time I checked academia was majority white and liberal, so you shouldn’t have any problems with racism, correct? Oh wait I forgot most of white academia lives in the suburbs and drives their Volvo into Boston, so they should really be in touch with the real problems the black community faces.

    HTY – 1
    ICO – 0

  6. for the sake of getting it off the other thread, here’s the conversation about Jews and whiteness.

    JJ, responding to this comment by me, Said:

    As a Brit, the experience of black people and other minority communities is very different to that of the US.

    I can’t fully comprehend the ongoing racial situation there because it’s not in my experience. Therefore, my only possible response to the post is to read the links and then say: ‘I must listen to and respect this experience.” In fact, this very post is requesting me to do this.

    In this vein then, the following comment by theangryblackwoman: “Jews could hide, if they chose, and pretend to be white. and now they are! ”

    …is truly baffling and offensive to me. How can Jewish people now be white in the American context but weren’t before? What right do you have to pronounce on this community in such a manner?

    It is extremely offensive that a WOC could talk about Jewish people with such a sweeping generalisation that people would find clearly unacceptable if applied to POC. Northern and Eastern Europeans have blond/mousy hair, blue eyes, upturned noses etc…just how do you think the typical Jewish person with dark hair, Semitic features, dark eyes etc, could just hide?

    The fact that Hitler, the Nazis and their allies managed to wipe out 60% of all European Jews in the Holocaust clearly suggests that this statement is factually incorrect.

    From what I have read, it is clear that racism is inherent in the US system, it’s clear that deep crimes have been committed against African and other non-European origin Americans, that predjudice and institutional racism continues. I’m not sure what I can do from my position over the pond except for to challenge any Americans I come across if and when they express racist views.

    However, I think that theangryblackwoman – despite protestations to the contrary – is playing the oppression Olympics. And clearly in her version, the Jews don’t win!

    ————-

    Angel H. Said:

    It is extremely offensive that a WOC could talk about Jewish people with such a sweeping generalisation that people would find clearly unacceptable if applied to POC. Northern and Eastern Europeans have blond/mousy hair, blue eyes, upturned noses etc…just how do you think the typical Jewish person with dark hair, Semitic features, dark eyes etc, could just hide?

    Talk out of your ass, much?

    Also, not all Jews are white.

    ——————–

    JJ Said:

    @Angel H

    Resorting to ad hominems….hmmm

    I live in northern Europe and extensively visit the rest of Europe. Me, my relatives and the people I meet on my travels are – for the vast part – fair to light brown haired and blue eyed. There is also a substantial minority of people typically from Celtic backgrounds who are red-haired. That is just the nature of the people that live in Northern and Eastern Europe.

    In fact, up the comment thread someone says “Thank you, white people, for pushing images of you and your big blue eyes, flaxen hair, straight noses and fair skin as the ultimate standard for beauty.” So I’m generalising based on what my eyes and experience tell me…and this person is doing what exactly…?

    Since my friendship group resulting from a very diverse school and university background includes a Cochin and a Yemeni Jewish person, I am quite aware that Jews come in all different colours.

    Your sniping aside, this doesn’t affect my point, because I’m referring to the angryblackwomen’s comment about Jews hiding as ‘white’, which clearly suggests that she is not referring to the Mizrachi Jewish community, and that she herself is generalising, which is what I object to.

    In the European context ‘hiding’ comment is clearly incorrect and to me offensive, as I know plenty of Jewish people who lost relatives in the Holocaust. They obviously just weren’t quite good enough at hiding their origins were they? In the American context, I am also enquiring as to why theangryblackwoman thinks that Jews were not white but now apparently are. I’m not sure what she means by this and this is why I am asking. So your point is what exactly…?

    @Dianne

    I’m not quite sure why that, when I endeavour to understand and respect the US’ experience of racism, that you then quite clearly attack me by challenging me to examine, learn about and tackle the racism inherent in British society, as if I am unaware about any of these things. Frankly since it wasn’t clearly the subject of my post nor did I go into detail, you cannot possibly know what I know or how I behave.

    If you do actually wish to know my opinion, knowledge and experiences about UK society’s racial issues – rather than just attack me based on your erroeneous assumptions – please feel free to ask me.

    —————

    the angry black woman Said:

    As far as Jewish people being white, perhaps someone should read the book “How the Jews Became White”, unless i am completely misremembering the title. as far as my proclaiming that jewish people are white, that is actually not something I even put forth for the first time ever. other folks, jewish folks, talk about being considered “white”. if you have a problem with that, perhaps you should speak to some jewish people and not me.

    ——————–

    Eric Said:

    JJ, I disagree. ABW has been nothing but respectful to Jews and her Jewish(?) respondents here thus far, despite most of them, including myself, going off topic from the original thread.

    Her comment that Jews can pass off as white is in the strictest sense true enough. One of the major differences between the anti-Semitism Jews still face and the racism many blacks face, besides a certain degree of institutionalism and perhaps frequency as well, is that Jews do not literally wear their identity on their skin. To be rather blunt, it’s a lot easier to notice the shade of someone’s skin color than to identify their ethnic background by the shape of their nose. To put it another way, it isn’t always obvious that a Jew is a Jew.

    I get the impression that ABW has a sociological background. Her perspective reflects certain sociological viewpoints on this topic: How the Jews Became White and What that Says about Race in America, and The Price of Whiteness: Jews, Race, and American Identity which has a slightly different argument from the first book.

    Don’t get me wrong. I don’t completely agree with everything she has said.

    But the point is this isn’t about JEWS! This is about another group of people talking about the problems they face in their everyday lives.

    ——————

    Angel H. Said:

    Resorting to ad hominems…

    No, just telling the truth.

    I live in northern Europe and extensively visit the rest of Europe. Me, my relatives and the people I meet on my travels are – for the vast part – fair to light brown haired and blue eyed. There is also a substantial minority of people typically from Celtic backgrounds who are red-haired. That is just the nature of the people that live in Northern and Eastern Europe.

    Except, of course for the vast numbers of people who have African, Asian, and Middle-Eastern ancestry. But, you wouldn’t forget about hem, would you?

    In fact, up the comment thread someone says “Thank you, white people, for pushing images of you and your big blue eyes, flaxen hair, straight noses and fair skin as the ultimate standard for beauty.” So I’m generalising based on what my eyes and experience tell me…and this person is doing what exactly…?

    Telling the truth. Open a magazine and count how many people in advertisements have those features in comparison to the number of ads featuring People of Color.

    Don’t worry. If you run out of fingers, just use your toes.

    Since my friendship group resulting from a very diverse school and university background…

    How can be “diverse” and “for the vast part – fair to light brown haired and blue eyed”. Again, you’re talking out of your ass.

    …I am quite aware that Jews come in all different colours

    Good for you. Tell it someone who gives a damn.

    Your sniping aside, this doesn’t affect my point, because I’m referring to the angryblackwomen’s comment about Jews hiding as ‘white’, which clearly suggests that she is not referring to the Mizrachi Jewish community, and that she herself is generalising, which is what I object to.

    How can you object to her generalizing when you’re doing the exact same thing? Your quote: “just how do you think the typical Jewish person with dark hair, Semitic features, dark eyes etc, could just hide.”

    In the American context, I am also enquiring as to why theangryblackwoman thinks that Jews were not white but now apparently are.

    In the U.S., European Jews are, for the most part, considered White and with it, comes most of the privileges of being White.

    —————————

    JJ Said:

    Angryblackwoman

    Don’t you think that you are being just the tiny bit disingenous. You said as a comeback to Anna and her comment on the difference between the black/Jewish response to racism: “If you’re going to assert that jews had it easier, fine, but I really don’t think it had a lot to do with having more resilience than blacks, i think it might have had more to do with a thing we call Assimilation. Jews could hide, if they chose, and pretend to be white. and now they are!”

    For all your protestations against this, you were trying to win the opression Olympics. You were generalising – incorrectly – about Jewish people’s experience. Jews could not historically and in many places cannot to this day in the European experience hide their ‘ethnicity’. To claim otherwise is a massive and offensive generalisation on your part.

    The fact is that you tried to put down another poster by effectively saying, well Jews they’re not really a proper minority are they, I mean, they could hide and now, well, they’re just white anyway.

    Fine. There’s a book by a New York Jewish academic that puts forward the idea that Jews are now white as a thesis. You then claim that other ‘Jewish folk’ apparently buy into this thesis and talk about being considered ‘white’. Well, I’m sure some do, and I’m sure some don’t. I, personally, have spoken to Jewish people, and I therefore know that many – if not most – of them do not feel ‘white’, they feel Jewish. They have their own – unique – experience which cannot be classified into the black/white dichotomy.

    Angryblackwoman it is not my right to tell you as a woman of colour about your identity. For sure, one of the themes of this blog is about how angry you are at other people telling you how you should react and behave as a WOC. The flip side of this is that it is not your right to tell Jewish people how they should view themselves either. If you can’t agree with this reciprocity, then you’re being a hypocrite.

    ——————-

    JJ Said:

    Eric

    I think I’ve kind of responded to you in part with my previous post to ABW…

    The fact is that some Jewish people can pass as ‘white’ and some can’t. Of course it’s not always possible to see who’s a Jew. But my experience is informed by the fact that one of my close Jewish friend’s experience is that at least once a day someone will ask her ‘where she comes from’. Her family have been in the UK for over 150 years! Clearly, people see her dark hair, dark eyes and distinctive features as something different, something foreign to the UK. (Although she has said that it’s getting better in London because of the increasing diversity of the city).

    This is why I am very sensitive to this topic because I know how much it hurts for her to be on the one hand considered the ‘other’ and on the other to be considered too ‘white’ by POC to suffer discrimination.

    I’m not saying this discussion should be about Jews. In fact I’d rather it wasn’t. I was far rather interested in understanding (as someone who works in cross-communal activities) the ongoing American experience of racism. I think I must have read 50+ blog posts here without ever commenting.

    But when I saw a comment that I felt belittled another community’s experience of discrimination, I felt the need to say something. The who’s been oppressed more route is just all very depressing and counterproductive and I felt that ABW’s comment was in that space.

    You might disagree, but frankly, if we can’t even agree in this kind of space to say that a variety of groups have their own, different experiences and we should try to respect them then frankly we’re screwed.

    ————————-

    Dianne: Said:

    I’m not quite sure why that, when I endeavour to understand and respect the US’ experience of racism, that you then quite clearly attack me by challenging me to examine, learn about and tackle the racism inherent in British society,

    Oh, some vague notion that you might be interested in fighting racism in general, not just racism in the United States. Apparently that assumption was wrong. Sorry. Incidentally, I don’t see how asking you to deal with racism in your own society could be considered an “attack.” If I asked you, “How can I, being an American, stop you unenlightened Brits from acting like racist idiots?” you would be well within your rights to point out that America has a teensy tiny little problem with racism as well and that maybe I should deal with that before worrying about British racism.

    ———————

    JJ Said:

    Eric

    I think I’ve kind of responded to you in part with my previous post to ABW…

    The fact is that some Jewish people can pass as ‘white’ and some can’t. Of course it’s not always possible to see who’s a Jew. But my experience is informed by the fact that one of my close Jewish friend’s experience is that at least once a day someone will ask her ‘where she comes from’. Her family have been in the UK for over 150 years! Clearly, people see her dark hair, dark eyes and distinctive features as something different, something foreign to the UK. (Although she has said that it’s getting better in London because of the increasing diversity of the city).

    This is why I am very sensitive to this topic because I know how much it hurts for her to be on the one hand considered the ‘other’ and on the other to be considered too ‘white’ by POC to suffer discrimination.

    I’m not saying this discussion should be about Jews. In fact I’d rather it wasn’t. I was far rather interested in understanding (as someone who works in cross-communal activities) the ongoing American experience of racism. I think I must have read 50+ blog posts here without ever commenting.

    But when I saw a comment that I felt belittled another community’s experience of discrimination, I felt the need to say something. The who’s been oppressed more route is just all very depressing and counterproductive and I felt that ABW’s comment was in that space.

    You might disagree, but frankly, if we can’t even agree in this kind of space to say that a variety of groups have their own, different experiences and we should try to respect them then frankly we’re screwed.

    ———————

    JJ Said:

    Dianne

    It’s interesting – and rather impressive in fact – that you have managed to entirely miss the point. It’s quite touching and patriotic that your knee jerk reaction is to assume that I’m attacking America and so go on the offensive about the UK.

    I am asking about the American experience of racism because I don’t live in America. And I can read all the books and academic papers I want without really understanding how people feel and what their personal experiences are. That is why I come to blogs such as this, Racialicious and Shark-Fu’s. To learn.

    From the UK side, however, I certainly don’t need to be lectured by you about UK racism and discrimination because I live in the UK and – more pertinently – I work in cross-communal and inter-faith projects. That is the source of my interest in the issue. So thanks for the advice about tackling UK racism, I’ll make sure to carry on doing my job…..

    ———————

    Eric
    ApconX@google.com | 68.226.95.36

    JJ, the experience of your friend sounds very much like my own experiences. People do clearly see the distinct features of “ethnic” Jews and often have no idea what to make of them.

    BUT, the better question to ask is what does that say about the system that informs such questions of identification?

    Case in point, people have thought I was black, Mexican, “off the boat” Italian (there own words), and Arab. Why did people identify me as black? It mostly centered around the fact that I have extremely curly hair. However, why would someone look at my curly hair and say, “that kid is black” rather than Jewish.

    What does that say about the system where “curly hair” is automatically associated with blackness?

    This is both anti-Semitic and racist towards blacks in my opinion. It is and can be both. It identifies something NOT white within me, Others me, but it also participates in a larger system of racial stereotypes about appearance that have nothing to do with me as a Jew necessarily, and is far more harmful to blacks (curly = bad).

    Despite all that, there is no denying that I can pass off as white in many, if not most, situations.

    Secondly, I don’t think ABW ever failed to recognize that a variety of groups have different experiences.

    If you look at her earlier comments in this thread she responded to the following comment:

    The Jews, funnily, don’t scream about anyone keeping them down. They just take their occassional genocide in stride and mosey along.

    with:

    I don’t even know how to respond to this asinine statement.

    And initially responded to Anna with the following:

    Also, we don’t play the oppression olympics around here. That is, we don’t go around saying, “Oh, you jews have it so easy compared the the Blacks”, or “White women are better off than black women”. Know why? because that’s stupid and leads no where.
    How you deal with the people who messed with your ancestors is your business. But please do me the courtesy of having the agency to deal with the people who messed with mine in my own way.

    It sounds to me that she very much acknowledges that their is a distinct history that the Jews have experienced and is in fact very respectful to that history, hence the problem really is that this isn’t ABOUT Jews.

    You also disregard that Anna herself identifies as white, and if you read ABW’s posts in context that is what she is referring to.

    —————–

    I said:

    JJ: “…the following comment by theangryblackwoman: “Jews could hide, if they chose, and pretend to be white. and now they are! ”

    …is truly baffling and offensive to me. How can Jewish people now be white in the American context but weren’t before? What right do you have to pronounce on this community in such a manner?”

    You act as if I said something dirty about Jewish people. As I said, you should check out the book How Jews Became White Folks and What That Says About Race in America by Karen Brodkin as it talks about these issues in depth. *I* am certainly not the first person to ever say that Jewish people are considered white folk in America. I’m not the one pronouncing them anything. And it’s certainly not calling them a name. Well, I hope not.

    Not all Jewish people consider themselves white, but many of them benefit from white privilege.

    Also remember, before you go whining about Germany, that America is a different country. While a German in 1940 may have known a Jewish person on sight, or thought they knew, or whatever, an American may not have. And often, it wasn’t their looks or dark skin or whatever that gave them away, but the fact that they lived in certain neighborhoods, or were known to their neighbors for being Jews.

    Learn some fucking history before you come at me with this shit again.

    “In the European context ‘hiding’ comment is clearly incorrect and to me offensive, as I know plenty of Jewish people who lost relatives in the Holocaust.”

    Okay, when I start speaking about the European context, you can have something to say to me. As it is, I wasn’t. I was and am talking about America, and so was the person to whom I was responding.

    “I, personally, have spoken to Jewish people”

    You know, this is the point at which your argument loses all credibility. I’m happy to have a discussion with actual Jewish people about this, but not with the uppity defender of Jewish non-whiteness who is not actually Jewish but knows some of them.

    (which, honestly, was very wrong of me to go off half cocked. I plead tiredness and over-aggravation with all the dumb ass people on that thread. better response later!)

  7. I don’t think it was wrong of you. I read a line like “I, personally, have spoken to Jewish people,” and all I can think is “Oh, you’ve spoken to real, live Jewish people! How exciting! How broad-minded of you to speak to Jewish people! Of course, ABW has never actually spoken to a Jew.”

  8. happierthanthou, quit being an asshole on my blog. That’s warning #1.

    An honest dialogue about race starts off with mutual respect on both sides, a willingness to listen to the views of people actually affected by racism, and knowledge. You came at us with NONE of these, so we can’t have an honest dialogue. If you ant to try again…. but no, you prolly won’t.

    Sorry but this post has nothing to do with Jews as I’m not quite sure what the point is.

    The point is that it’s an open thread where people can talk about what they like. I’m sorry you’re not bright enough to grok that.

    I wish we didn’t even have to discuss these issues

    I’m sure you do. And I’m sure it has nothing to do with the supposed fruitlessness of conversations about race and more because they make you uncomfortable. Seems to me that the very THOUGHT that you migh benefit from racism and perpetuate racial inequality is so upsetting to you that you do nothing about it but instead loudly proclaim that everyone should stop talking about things that make you feel bad.

    As most of the rest of us left 6th grade long ago, I have a feeling you’re not going to be obliged.

    So why bother posting about racism, when all it does is push us further apart?

    It may have pushed you and I farther apart, but IO don’t consider this a downside. I don’t want to be anywhere enar you.

    Racism clearly exists and is alive and well today, on both sides

    oooo *almost*. But sadly you’re wrong with the “both sides” addition.

    I also believe we have made exponential progress every year.

    That’s because you’re white. And frankly, because you’re white, your prognosis of how far we’ve come in battling racism is worth the pixels its made of.

    That is not to say that white people’s opinions don’t count. But if you’d read ANY of the required reading you’d see that we’ve already said that, unless the racism is happening TO YOU, you don’t get to say when it’s over or how much better it is. It doesn’t affect you the same way it affects me. Bottom line.

    My fear is that white people are starting to get pissed off for being accused of still being racist, and having to pay for things we didn’t do.

    The problem with this statement is that no one is asking white people to pay for anything they didn’t do. We are asking them to acknowledge and rectify the things they ARE responsible for, but that always makes someone whine. And generally, I don’t accuse people of racism unless they actually are racist.

    I really do believe you’re fighting a losing war by trying to get us to apologize or feel bad for what we didn’t do.

    Further problem, I actually haven’t done any such thing. If you feel bad because of something I said, perhaps it’s because you SHOULD. But I haven’t accused you of doing anything you haven’t.

    It seems like racism has been almost totally removed from institutions (actually it’s been reversed with Aff. Action),

    Even with that ‘almost”, of which you are so proud, you’re still hugely wrong. There are many people who read this blog who can attest to the wrongness of you, I’ll let them do so.

  9. happierthanthou: You expect “open and honest dialogue” to not include disagreements? You expect us to take you as someone who is interested in real dialogue and yet you put a score at the bottom of your post?

    I didn’t attack you in my post. I disagreed with what appears to be your interpretation of the complaints that we are hearing from black people.

    ICO didn’t attack you either. Both of us took issue with your characterization of real world circumstances. Nobody has called you names here. You’ve made no substantive response to what we actually wrote.

    I don’t how see you’re “just being honest” and we’re somehow trying to “shove their opinions down other people’s throats.”

    Seriously man, chill the hell out. You’re arguing with things that aren’t even being said to you.

  10. Hey sorry you guys don’t want to hear anybody else’s opinion. I told you what I thought, you guys got pissed and went on the offensive. I still disagree with you, and feel free to ban me as it’s your site. I’ll get over it although I do like the site.

    Fortunately it’s the Lord’s day and I don’t feel like arguing anymore about he said/she said.
    Adam you’re right, you guys didn’t attack me. I guess when ABW doesn’t like someone’s opinion or thinks its racist, she does the attacking. Whatev.

    happierthanthou, quit being an asshole on my blog
    I’m sorry you’re not bright enough to grok that.
    And frankly, because you’re white, your prognosis of how far we’ve come in battling racism is worth the pixels its made of.

  11. I seem to recall somebody in that other thread was arguing about whether racism still exists in Britain. I now have a longer answer than “Well, duh”. The word “uncomfortable” in ABW’s answer to happierthanthou feeds into it.

    I just caught the end of a trailer (with the traditional British bulldog and a lot of doggy interlopers) for something called “Immigration: The Inconvenient Truth”. Now they may think they’re being clever pinching the title of Al Gore’s movie, but their choice of words (among other things) makes me sure that there won’t be much truth in there. If it was called “Immigration: The Uncomfortable Truth” I might hope for some coverage of the real problems with immigration in Brtain: mainly the way the media, led by rabid tabloids and followed by a spineless government, blames immigrants and asylum seekers (they can’t tell the difference) for a whole lot of things that have a different cause entirely.

    But I reckon what it’s actually going to say is that immigration, imposed on us by the expansion of “Europe” (i.e. the EU), is causing all sorts of problems that “nobody” [except the oh-so-brave non-PC program-makers] wants to talk about because of “political correctness” and “multiculturalism” and the convenience of being able to get a Polish plumber (there’s a classist sub-agenda there, to go further off topic). Probably with a side order of mis-defining multiculturalism, possibly with a side order of Islamophobia.

    Am I going to watch and see if my assumptions are confirmed? No. I didn’t watch the recent “White” season, but I’ve read the reports of people who did, and evidently it was as horrid as I expected. Some people say our media is dominated by liberals. *pffft* It’s part of the Establishment; it just suits them to appear liberal occasionally, so they can imagine they’re being original the rest of the time.

    Racism over here is different from racism over there (tho’ probably not as different as it looks to me in my comfortable residential neighbourhood), but it’s still racism sure enough.

  12. I once wrote a post tangential to this issue if anyone’s interested : http://etrangere.livejournal.com/206882.html?nc=30

    A few years ago, there’s a guy in France who got tortured and burnt alive for the sole reason of being Jewish. We may enjoy white priviledge, but that doesn’t mean antisemitism isn’t alive, even in western countries.

    Then again I do enjoy white privildge. My people have enjoyed white priviledge in Algeria during the colonization where my mother comes from when France granted all Jews citizenship (which they didn’t for the Arabs – or for the Berbers who tend to look pretty “white”) – then again before that they were the minority around that place. Complicated issue which you can’t go around and try to simplify.

  13. happierthanyou (which I highly doubt) wrote:
    “Save it for another day and stop kissing ABW’s ass.”

    You mean ass_es._ This is a group blog. Which you would know if you’d been paying the slightest bit of attention.

    So if I agree with much of this blog I’m an ass kisser, am I? What if I agreed with you? Would I be an ass kisser, or an “independent thinker?”

    Just because it’s your “heartfelt opinion” doesn’t make it the “God’s honest truth.”

    You’re a dumbass.

  14. Ico:

    Can you tell us about your experiences in academia regarding race? Because I’m not sure what you mean exactly, and I’d be interested in hearing your experiences in that institution if you’d care to share.

    Entrangere:

    Nice post I think you hit a lot of the issue right on the head in many ways. I’ll add more a bit later, but I have to go to work.

  15. Etrangere,

    Read what I said about the oppression olympics in the other post. No where have I attempted to deny that jewish people face prejudice. NO WHERE. If they didn’t, there would be no need for assimilation nor any need to argue over whether or not they’re white. Seriously. I’ve no wish to invalidate any other group’s oppressions while discussing the ones that apply to me. i leave that for ignorant people to do.

  16. In all honesty, the idea that European Jews aren’t white is completely new to me. I’ve certainly seen anti-Semitism so it’s not that I didn’t know they were singled out for prejudice. I guess that means that I agree with ABW when she said that many Jews “…could hide, if they chose, and pretend to be white. and now they are! ” They are white to me and to many people I know. Is it wrong that I think that?

    The original post was nicely done. It captured all of the things that I wish I could articulate to people who deny that racism still exists. I am usually just too mad and shocked to formulate coherent thoughts. Maybe I’ll carry this around as a cheat sheet.

  17. Eric,

    I can probably tell you a lot less about racism in academia than someone who actively experiences it. I give that disclaimer because as a person w/ white privilege, there’s a lot of stuff that passes me by. So I’m guessing that what I do see is the tip of the iceberg.

    That said, a big problem in the fields I’ve studied in (literature and the visual arts) is that these fields have historically been the province of a white male professorate. So the art, literature, theory, etc., that is valued and consistently taught as the basis for new students to learn from is full of racism, sexism, etc. Basically, accomplishments of PoC are undervalued or not recognized at all. The work of PoC is “Othered” when it does appear, shuffled off into subcategories while the bigger, more universal periods/movements are all defined by the work of white men. Literary canonization determines what ends up in anthologies, what ends up being taught from the college all the way down to the high school level, what work by what artists ends up being *remembered* and culturally valued. It’s really not a coincidence that most of what we think of as “great works” were created by white males. A lot of that comes straight out of academia.

    These days many literary scholars/critics/professors have acknowledged that the racism is a problem, and you have a lot more scholars of color. But that hasn’t changed the fact that we continue to teach, essentially, that white men made great work, and everyone else made… less great work. Change is slow to happen.

    This reinforces notions of white superiority which are passed onto students. Textbooks continue this too, Othering women and writers of color. You have women’s history classes that teach only the history of white women feminists and ignore women of color.

    In the art world you have art classes that take all their direction and instruction from western (white) art history. I don’t think we ever looked at the work of a black artist when I was an art student. We certainly never learned how to paint black skin or draw black people. The colors you are taught to appreciate and paint with (pink flesh tones and greenish/bluish underneath to make the skin look real) are focused on whiteness and white standards of beauty. Lots of art that is not made according to European standards is reduced to the label of “craft,” considered a more primitive art. By that I mean things like African art, art by indigenous people, art of Native Americans, and so forth. So once again, that which is non-white/nonwestern is devalued.

    A lot of this is due to the fact that PoC are underrepresented on faculty, in the student body, etc. In my entire academic career, I have had one black professor. I’ve been a student for a long time. That’s… kind of a small number.

    Also it’s worth noting that faculty of color are much less likely to hold tenured positions. And when faculty do research on issues relevant to race, they come into many obstacles. For one thing, often the material is not there (since people of color and especially women of color have largely been written out of history). For another, their work may be dismissed by colleagues, trivialized as unimportant. So scholars of color trying to write a history on people of color get told by white academics that hey, that’s not really that big a deal; why are you working on that stuff?

    In short, academia maintains the status quo w/ regard to race, upholding the dominant values of white superiority. I think there’s a lot of anti-racist activism in academia, too. Some departments/schools are much more progressive than others. But overall? Still a problem.

    Note that this is just my take as a grad student; I think there are others around here who can offer better info.

  18. this is a fantastic post ABW…
    the same argument could be had a few decades earlier as to the irish… they were not considered white either… but that is another topic as they are certainly of mostly caucasian dare i say it ‘stock’.. please do correct someone me if i am wrong…
    they are now considered 100% white……
    can i also say that being jewish is not racial.. it is religious… judaism is a faith… a is christianity.. also born in northern africa (i cannot abide the term middle east – the sahara does not disconnect the continent…) and as all religioins do.. it migrated throughout europe…… islam was not so lucky.. broadly it was pushed back into africa from spain and stayed there in the main…
    so where once most jews were black and arab. the majority is now white..
    israel takes part in the eurovision song contest ..

  19. happierthanyou:
    It seems like racism has been almost totally removed from institutions

    So Ico, when did you start representing all of academia? Last time I checked academia was majority white

    It’s good to see you can’t keep that “almost totally removed from institutions (acedemia is an institution)” for even one thread. Reality is like that, always sneaking in and making handwaving claims look like the ignorance they are.

    I think one of the most blatant ways whites indicate their racism is through the assumption that anything written by anyone is aimed at their point of view – so anything critical needs to be constructively critical, not just critical.

    And I have NO idea why so many whites are married to seeing white as a stainless, blameless thing. 8( Even when I was a colorblind racist, I didn’t want to be “white”.

  20. ABW,
    I wasn’t aware that I was engaging in oppression olympics nor am I still convinced. I wasn’t comparing Jewish suffering with that of White people so much as reiterating its existence even in Western societies today. Perhaps it wasn’t the place to do so.
    I agree with you that oppression olympics are really, really annoying, and benefits nobody but the priviledged, dominant society which likes nothing like feeling superior by setting different minorities against each others.
    As I said in my comment, I do have white priviledge, as do other Jewish people. I certainly wasn’t reacting to your initial post – I don’t think it is in my place to begrudge any PoC their right to being angry and expressing it. Neither do I think it’s bad for me to read about this anger since I do beneficiate of white priviledge.
    However I do not identify as “white”, and I don’t believe that anyone is entitled to tell me what I should self identify as. I’m suppose that doesn’t constitute an answer to your comments in particular, but I hope that makes my position clearer.

    london,
    can i also say that being jewish is not racial.. it is religious… judaism is a faith… a is christianity..
    That may be your definition of judaism, but this is not the definition that every Jews use. Lots of people (myself included) identify as Jews without being religious in the slightest. Moreover prejudices against Jews has historically been racialized a great deal, and that also needs to be taken into account.

  21. Eric-
    You asked Ico about race in academia. I am a white woman in academia right now- finishing my PhD in engineering at a midwestern university (graduating in a month and a half- keep your fingers crossed for me that I pass my thesis defense!) :) I thought I would add in my two cents to this conversation since my thesis is looking at race in engineering. I am researching what it means to be white and male in engineering higher education.

    This question came out of the fact that there are so few faculty of color in the sciences. In fact, at my college of engineering, there are 184 faculty- of which 84% are white (11% white women, 73% white men), 12% are Asian (3 of these are Asian women), 3% are Latino men, less than one percent is Black (there is one, count him, ONE Black male), and NO Latina or Black women on the faculty. But here is the kicker, when you look at who is getting engineering PhDs, they are not all white. In fact, in 2004, only 27% of the PhDs granted in engineering were to whites. But, nationally in 2005, 67% of the engineering faculty are white. So, why are so many whites engineering faculty? And why are there so few PoC as engineering faculty?

    When I set out to look at the literature on why this may be, I found two lines of thought. One, being that the climate in the sciences is chilly and PoC don’t feel comfortable in that climate, and thus don’t become faculty. The second line of thought is that there are too few PoC going through the “pipeline” to become faculty (eg not enough PoC getting engineering bachelor’s degrees, then getting masters degrees, then getting PhDs, and finally getting a faculty position).

    Both of these lines of thoughts seemed logical on first look. But, when it comes down to how to fix these issues, the typical response from academia is to put into effect a program to “help” PoC succeed in the existing academic environment or to change the environment to be more “friendly” to the PoC. The problem with that is the strategies being put into place assume that the PoC are defient or lacking in something, setting the white faculty as the “normal” to which others (read PoC) are compared to. Thus, I am aiming to de-center whiteness, investigating what privleges white males have and how they contribute to the climate in engineering as a way of understanding why they are over represented in academia.

    So this is a long way around to talking about race in academia, I know. But the point I am trying to make with this long-winded post is that race in academia (at least in the sciences) is the unacknowledged purple elephant in the center of of the room. Academics prefer to talk about the lack of women in the sciences (which is a real problem too) instead of real issues of race. Don’t get me wrong, right now there is a huge push in the sciences to get in more “diversity” (academic code for underrepresesnted groups- usually not including Asians, but includes Asian-Pacific, Black, Latino, Native American/Native Alaskan). But, unfortuently, this push ignores real institutional policies and procedures that are in place in the American higher ed system that grant privileges to whites.

    So, while I can not speak to what it means to be a PoC in engineering as faculty, I certainly can attest to the fact that to be a white male faculty member in engineering means that you are allowed to be in a system that does not require you to think about your whiteness or the consequences of it on a daily basis. In fact, to most of my participants, the thought of whiteness was a subject completely alien to them and held no meaning- race, white or otherwise, is simply not part of their daily lives.

  22. However I do not identify as “white”, and I don’t believe that anyone is entitled to tell me what I should self identify as.

    There is a subtle but important distinction between self-identifying as white and having white privilege, and I think they’re another important distinction between an individuals’ right to self-define and the categories which cultural/racial/ethnic groups fall into.

    I don’t self-identify as white, but when other people categorize me I can’t honestly deny they would as white. Their categorization fo me doesn’t change my self-categorization, but changing my self-categorization never has removed my privilege, either.

  23. Deoridhe,
    Yes, I entirely agree.

  24. re: being a Jew and a white person, anyone seen Europa Europa? Where the (true story) main character, an undercover Jew, fits the Nazi “type” of face so perfectly that he’s held up as an exemplar of the Aryan race. I am Jewish, and I have a few Jewish features, but by and large I just look _German_ and would blend in to any white crowd. I have to ‘come out’ as a Jew among new friends the same way I have to ‘come out’ as bi. If I don’t, I pass even without intending to. (Like in France, where people happily talked about “those Jews” to me. Ummmm…)

    Jew =/= white because Judaism includes Sephardim, Ethopian Jews, and people of all races who convert — but think of an Ashkenazi phenotype and you’re as likely to think of Nathan Lane as anyone else, and Nathan Lane is no Jew.

    But of course my experience is by no means universal. People who look more stereotypically Jewish, or people who do not live in America, may have to take more shit.

  25. I’ve noticed on this pattern on this site and on others that deal with racism against blacks. Someone, most of the time not Jewish, will always bring up the Jews and the holocaust as a crutch for why black people should not be complaining. This NEVER fails, I suppose it’s because people are SO original.

    Thank you for having open discussion on it, ABW, it was really interesting and informative (for the most part) reading the post and comments.

  26. Ico:

    I also am a Grad student in Literature, “specializing” in 19th and 20th century American literature, which is why I wanted to hear your take on racism within the academic institution.

    I agree and disagree with you.

    I agree that Canon formation has been influenced by the prevalance of white males in the professorate. I agree with many of the practical consequences you described (I’ll be general on that point as there is no need for me to rewrite your entire post). You’re right to note the lack of non-White art in art history. Now that I think back to my undergrad art history class there wasn’t any artists of color. I can only think of one class I ever took with a person of color as my professor.

    Despite agreeing with all of what you just said, I still cannot help having a healthy respect for the “Canon” and much of the work written by those white males of which you speak. I want to start by saying I am thrilled that we have extended the Canon by adding more writers of color and female writers and female writers of color. However, I do think most of the writers we canonize are great writers. They often do stand out as being exceptional. This is NOT to say the writers that haven’t traditionally been on the Canon aren’t good.

    The question for me isn’t should we get rid of the sexist, racist white writers of the past and stop teaching them (a question addressed here), but rather what great non-white non-male writers have we lost or failed to include because of racism and sexism. It would be a shame to lose good writers worth reading because of those reasons. My take in other words is extremely broad and all-encompassing.

    Don’t get me wrong I can understand why some women cannot stand to read Hemingway, why some Africans and African Americans are bothered by Conrad’s racism, but I do think it is important to read within the Canon.

    This should further be tempered by the understanding that reading as broadly as possible in and outside the Canon is good and desireable, at least for me.

  27. Sosupercilious: I think that’s a subsect of Godwin’s law. It also happens on feminist sites, though to much lesser extent.

    I don’t understand the sentiment that HTY expressed above, about listening to experiences being a two-way street. That’s like the What About Teh Menz?? thing on feminist sites. Newsflash: This site isn’t about you. It’s not about your experiences. I’m certain that the opinions of white people are welcome, of course, but our entire culture is about white people. This is a space where white people are, shock of shocks, not the focus. So, no, it’s not a two way street. White experiences are validated all the time, and they don’t need another forum. You don’t like it? Too bad.

    I really wonder why the ludicrously irate commenters from the previous post don’t take a moment to examine why they take posts like that so personally. I loved Inga Muscio’s Autobiography of a Blue-eyed Devil, and she addressed why it’s so stupid and useless for white and white-identified people to feel guilty or embarrassed about their whiteness. It doesn’t do anything to help! If you feel personally attacked, it’s probably because you see yourself in the post and aren’t doing enough to engage the problem of racism.

  28. I think most of the people quibbling about whether Jews are white or not are missing a rather important point, which is that race is a social construct. Who is considered ‘white’ or ‘black’ is something decided generally by society and is not necessarily governed by a persons appearance. In the past, certainly in the UK, and I imagine in America as well, the Irish, for example, were placed in a definite seperate racial construction from the majority (for some reason a quote from the film Layer Cake comes to mind: “In those days, being Irish was almost as bad as being black”) whereas nowadays Irish people would generally be considered just ‘white’, though there are still seperate categories on a lot of the kind of forms that ask you your race for ‘White British’ and ‘White Irish’. Conversely, nowadays, Poles and other eastern europeans are not really considered ‘white’, which is to say, their eastern european origin takes presedence over the colour of their skin. Whether jews are ‘white’ or not has nothing to do with their ancestry or skin colour, and everything to do with how the boundaries of the various racial constructs are delineated at the present time. In America, from what I can tell, Jews are (generally) percieved as ‘white’, whereas they would certainly not be in, say, Romania. It’s related to the phenomenon whereby someone who is one eighth African and seven eighths Caucasian is considered to be ‘black’. No one ever said racism had to make any sense.

  29. The above post is great. About “perceived ethnicity”: I realize that in the U.S. I’m perceived as white the vast majority of the time, but conceptions about “what Jews” look like are alive and well. I’ve been asked many times whether I’m Jewish, and this is usually related to my hair and facial features. (Though, granted, some people try to say they only thought that because of my New York/New Jersey accent.) I think some non-Jewish people with similar features probably get this stuff, too. One person who talked about this with me said she’s asked people if they were Jewish before, but often they aren’t and get offended when asked. I don’t entirely know what that’s supposed to mean. Even growing up in a town with a significant Jewish population, I did get subtle messages that curly dark hair and a long nose were “Jewish” and not quite as “pretty.” Not equivelent to what WOC face, of course, but present.

  30. Hi there,

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  31. quietus thank you for saying that far more eloquently than i did..
    jews pass through society period… jews are hebrews ‘from the other side of the euphrates’ for want of a better term.. therefore originally arab.. this is no longer the case… palestinians look more like jews than jews themselves.. and the sterotyped features are definitely not white but a latent arab-ness…
    jews were singled out by hitler using the general public to out them becuase jews do not generally look like the handed down stereotypes
    if hitler wanted to do the same to blacks his job would have been much easier no?
    i had a great discussion once with a jewish friend of mine when i asked where she came from.. she answered ‘i am jewish’.. i countered that i didn’t ask her religion.. i wanted to know where i the world her family originated. – she has a very unusual surname….. my immediate family are jamaicans as i answered when she asked me… this got me thinking that western jews have been so displaced that their jewishness has been elevated ‘above’ their place of origin so as to give a sense of belonging and solidarity for all concerned?
    i imagine that ethiopian jews know exactly where they come from and they would be percieved primarily as black and treated as such by any society they chose to live in regardless of religion…
    european jews are in the main white and as such are not subjected to the same racism as blacks on a day to day basis… this is the crux of this thread and it cannot be denied can it?

  32. London, I would like for the sake of everyone’s sanity to keep Israel out of the conversation if at all possible.

    Quietus and London:

    I would argue that anti-Semitism takes three forms: religious, cultural, and racial.

    Judaism is first and foremost a religion. However, it also refers to a particular ethnic group (at least I think so). And it also refers to a particular culture with particular cultural values absent of any religious belief and ethnic identity.

    Case in point, my own family and how each of my siblings view themselves. I view myself as culturally, ethnically, and religiously Jewish. My brother is an atheist, but still sees himself as Jewish culturally (mostly for the “Jewish” food on the holidays as he puts it). My sister considers herself a “cultural” Jew, but unlike my brother believes in God. She just doesn’t believe in organized religion. My brother and sister will both tell you they’re Russian if asked the “what are you?” question. I will NOT because those bastards kicked us out of their country during the pograms (not to mention that isn’t entirely where we came from as one set of my great grandparents emigrated from Austria). If you ask my siblings they will tell you unqualifyingly that they are white. I am far more hesitant, but don’t entirely disagree that I have white privilege most of the time (this will be discussed in more detail below).

    Anti-Semitism is still very much alive as my childhood taught me. I heard an anti-Semitic comment pretty much everyday when I was in high school (and earlier I had heard some too, but more sporadically) ranging from the innocuous “penny jokes” and “cheap/greedy” stereotypes to the more offensive Holocaust denial or “oven” jokes to Christ-killer comments to you’re going to hell for not believing in Jesus. I should add these comments did not ONLY come from white people. There was also the whole problem people had of identifying me racially/ethnically (which America obsesses over) from my appearance described above in the posts ABW moved here.

    There are appearance issues associated with assimilation. Many Jewish women want to have nose jobs or hate their appearance (usually citing specifically Jewish features), I know this from research and talking about it on dates. In fact, I remember talking to one of my Jewish dates who said she liked her nose because it didn’t look Jewish. Growing up I couldn’t understand why I didn’t have straight hair like all the other boys. I have/had severe existential angst over my curly hair, and I now keep it trimmed fairly short so it doesn’t curl up.

    I remember hearing about synagogues defaced with grafittee throughout New York on the news quite often when I was younger (a couple times a year). At my high school (I was in the middle school at the time) someone painted a Swastika on the track just before graduation.

    The point here being anti-Semitism is quite alive in America. It does, however, take a very different form than racism specifically targeted against blacks I think. Anti-Semitism in America generally isn’t institutionalized. I am not worried about a bank denying me a loan because I am Jewish (they probably couldn’t tell I was anyway), etc. I can escape it at times because I don’t wear it on my skin (the reason it was so intense in high school I think is because your classmates know your background). It mostly is damaging on a psychological level rather than it ever being able to harm me materially.

    The White Privilege issue is also complex. Using Peggy McIntosh’s White Privilege checklist for example has a very different result for a Jew going down the checklist than it would for your average Anglo white person. A lot of the points on the checklist just don’t work when applied to a Jew.

    Also, white privilege accusations has the tendency to turn invisible the real historical reality of Jews. This is why many Jews go rabid and start invoking Godwin’s Law. Though, I would suggest most Jews haven’t entirely thought through why this is problematic. The lesson of the holocaust was not just that evil racist Nazis were anti-Semitic and decided to kill lots of Jews, therefore one can never speak about Jews being white because they suffered this atrocity. No, the real lesson for Jews and others is that you can be white one day and in a snap of a finger it can be gone tomorrow.

    Another problem is that one major root of the holocaust was people begrudging Jews their economic and social success. Besides playing in to certain anti-Semitic stereotypes, it shouldn’t be surprising if people with that particular history don’t react with cheers and applause and guilt when someone suggests Jews have white privilege and most of their economic, personal, and social success in America can be explained by their acceptance as white. In part there are cultural reasons such as the heavy premium placed on knowledge in Judaism that also plays a huge role that people tend to downplay. Privilege might have helped open some of the doors, but it was the Jews and their cultural values that helped nail them in place.

    What I really wanted to highlight was some of the complex issues surrounding white privilege and Judaism. With all that said, I do think Jews by and large in America have a certain degree of white privilege, but because of specific histories and issues I think it is fairly complex.

    There is some fantastic discussion from 2001 on a lot of these issues here. An absolute must-read! I particularly like the comment where someone describes Jews in America as “beige”, both having white privilege, yet not quite white either. I think that captures my own feelings on this quite well.

    In other words, what I am suggesting Quietus and others is that it’s a little bit trickier/stickier/complex than just jews = White. End of story.

    ——————————————–

    If anyone needs proof that racism, sexism, homophobia, and anti-Semitism are still alive and thriving, one need only sign onto to play Halo 3 online.

    I cannot tell you how many times I heard people throw around the N-Word, specifically with “I hate . . .” in front of it. Not to mention there was a few conversations about how “Jews control all the money, don’t let them get your bank account number.”

  33. Excellent blog, ABW. We all need to get good and pissed off about racism.. .and we need to stay pissed for as long as it takes to make some forward progress.

    I’ve had conversations with my fellow whites where they defend their refusal to talk about racism or racial differences as their way of removing it from our country’s dialog. Their rationale: if they stop talking about it or “seeing” it, it will cease to be an issue, and everyone will live happily ever after in perfect racial harmony. I tried this tactic myself when I was younger, until I realized that racism isn’t like the monster under my childhood bed that vanishes when I stop thinking about it — that, in fact, refusing to acknowledge the continued existence of racism was in itself racist.

    So FWIW, I apologize for my own contribution to my country’s long history of endemic racism. Yes, I have not and will never own slaves. Yes, I have not and will never humiliate or rape or beat or kill anyone solely because of their color. But I am ashamed of my failure to challenge the horrifically racist statements I’ve heard from the mouths of family members and (former) friends, and my continued avoidance of initiating discussions of racism with my friends of color for fear of “offending” or “upsetting” them (IOW: me). I need to stop being afraid of putting my majority-privileged foot in my mouth, of looking stupid and sounding racist. I need to talk about it, even if it’s uncomfortable and messy.

    Better yet, I need to shut up and listen. ^_~

  34. Everyone talking about the whiteness of Jews:

    I agree with Eric’s comment and one sentence in particular stuck out for me:
    “No, the real lesson for Jews and others is that you can be white one day and in a snap of a finger it can be gone tomorrow.”

    You very eloquently stated how I feel but have never managed to properly express, so I hope you won’t mind if I borrow your words in the future when this subject comes up.

    Two separate but related points:

    1. I am a woman of Italian descent married to a Jewish man, and we talk about this issue of perceived whiteness all the time. It is a complicated personal issue. One of the more surreal aspects of my childhood was watching my grandparents and people of their generation continue to fight a battle against being considered PoC, all while I always sensed that I was considered white. I look a lot like my father’s mother, though. It just made me aware from a young age that there was something suspect about society’s use of whiteness.

    Also, when my mother was in college in the 1970s, the city universities of NY dropped their minimum high school GPA admissions requirement, which allowed many Italian immigrants and their children their first opportunity to attend college. This was an affirmative action measure, but actually marked the turning point when many Italian families that had immigrated early in the 20th century made it into the middle class. My mother told me many times that affirmative action + the onset of white privilege had given my generation more opportunity in life than hers had had (so, Thank You, Black People, for the civil rights movement).

    Given all of this history, I can understand how sometimes PoC can be made uncomfortable and angry by people pointing out that their progenitors were not always considered white. Depending on the phrasing, it can sound an awful lot like a denial of white privilege and/or a denial of the fact that there is a darkness of skin tone beyond which “passing” has never been possible. For some people, that may be exactly what they’re doing. I’m only speaking for myself and I acknowledge my privilege. I also see my awareness of my ancestors’ experience as a strength because it was the first thing to show me that fighting racism is in my own best interest. I started to see my relatives, whom I love and respect very much, in PoC facing racism today, and of course I would never sit back and watch a relative fight a battle. I would support her. I mean, I have other reasons for ally work, but this one is how I first came to it as a young person.

    2. My husband’s story involves grandparents changing their names, downplaying “typical” physical features, losing bits of history along the way, feeling a sense of otherness, etc. On top of that, there is occasional anti-Semitism and of course a deeply ingrained knowledge of the Holocaust and the history that led up to it. I don’t want to go too far in speaking for him, but I do know from our conversations that his sense of cultural Judaism is strong and certainly structures his identity as a white man. Judging only from the experiences we’ve faced in our marriage, I think that being white in the US is so bound up with also being Christian, that no matter the level of white privilege a Jewish man has, he will feel a certain distance from or frustration with a majority culture that doesn’t take note of certain important aspects of who he is (holy days/rituals and special needs that go along with them) and occasionally supports negative stereotyping. This probably also applies to any light skinned member of a non-majority religion (certainly Muslims know from negative stereotyping). I didn’t mean to leave anyone out, but it’s just that my experience is only with Judaism.

  35. SMH @ the whole lot of this thread and the other. Why is that white folks like Buchanan want us to be thankful and optimistic when we still are arguing dumb shit without even getting to the root of the problem? The stupid really does burn.

  36. Let’s also be thankful for over a century of medical experimentation, from gynecological surgery on black women w/o anaesthesia by Dr John Sims; to the Tuskeegee experiment, to recent research vaccinations on children.

    The above quote is from the post below. I didn’t say anything in that thread because it struck me as off topic, but I have a question for anyone interested in answering…Given this history (and other events not mentioned here, some of them quite recent), what should doctors do to recruit black patients to clinical trials? Because sometimes that’s the best treatment option available. For example, pancreatic cancer has essentially no treatment options (if it’s progressed past the point of surgery, which it almost always has). People with pancreatic cancer do better when they are on clinical trials, even if the drug they get isn’t effective, possibly because they get closer monitoring and better supportive care. So, how should a doctor, particularly a white doctor, approach this issue with a patient who might benefit from being on a clinical trial?

  37. Dianne:

    Personally, if I were to participate in a clinical trial I would need full disclosure or pretty close to it:

    – I would have to know what the trial would entail (medications, procedures, etc).
    – I would need to know what the ultimate goal of the trial would be.
    – I would need to know all of the benefits and the risks.
    – I would need to be hands on with monitoring my progress – not just how I feel, but how my “numbers” are holding up.
    – I need to be able to discontinue the trial if I believe that the risk to my health is too great.

  38. Diane…
    an emphatic no from me..
    i believe we subjected to such ‘clinical trials’ without our knowledge anyway…
    the blood we give for tests every so often, cervical smears, urine samples and the like… do they need all that body tissue and matter?
    i swear blood vials have got bigger..
    they have our ‘bodies’ on tap…
    we had a horrific case of five or six students over here a little while back… read here

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/4807042.stm

    these kids got £150 per day .. it’s just not worth it..

  39. Eric,

    Your point that whiteness could, at any time, be taken away from Jews does not run contrary to my assertions. What I was trying to say was that racial constructs are fickle, fluid and arbitrary. It’s not necessarily even a problem unique to Jews. Take the case of my friend. He is as whitebread as you could possibly imagine: middle class, private education, the works. Yet, his grandparents were Polish immigrants and he has a highly Eastern European name. He was telling me recently how, a couple of months back, he began looking for a part time job to supplement his student loans. He was more than a little startled, at more than one interview, to find that his potential employers were surprised to find he spoke perfect English. He began to wonder how many interviews he had not even been granted because people had assumed he was a recent immigrant. A small part of his white privilege has essentially vanished; he is slightly off white.

    Also, your points about religion give a good example of how even the whitest of white folks may lose portions of their white privilege. Does an atheist enjoy the full range of white privilege in the US? Hell, could an atheist even get into the US Senate? Manner of dress, even, can affect white privilege. Don’t try and tell me a skinhead or a goth enjoys quite the same level of white privilege as your bog standard stereotypical whitey. All this means, is that people really need to be more cogniscent of the fact that racial constructs and culture are closely interlinked. This of course, has particular relevance to Jews, since Judaism is as much a culture (or subculture) as it is a racial identity, at the end of the day.

  40. I think there is a difference between religious privilege and white privilege.

    The problem as it concerns Jews is that the term “Jew” often signifies more than just a religion, and anti-Semitisim historically has taken the three different forms that I described above, not just on grounds of religious persecution.

  41. Angel H and London: Thanks for your help. BTW, London, I’m not sure about in Britain, but in the US if you want to make sure that your blood or tissue sample is used for nothing but the test ordered, you can specify that it must be destroyed after the test is complete and not used for any other purpose. If that is of any help to you.

  42. that is a great help dianne..
    will be sure to investigate..
    we have a free health service here so that may be part of the payback so to speak..
    hell.. i don’t go to the hairdresser because i have a thing about the disposal of my hair and who touches it.. i do my hair myself…
    thank you…
    will feedback on how i get on.. should be interesting if not downright scary!..

  43. […] an interesting post and its two follow-ups. I have nothing to add except that it makes me sad that such a great blogger is getting […]

  44. This is a reply to Deoridhe’s post about adoption, which is pasted below:

    ************************************************************

    “Okay, I’m confused. I thought you said you agreed with my statement about, for example, Korean babies being taken from their parents who want them and given to white women under the guise of adoption.

    You also didn’t address the larger framework. The taking of foreign, non-white babies is increasinly becoming a status symbol via a few highly publicised adoptions. The downsides of this can be seen in, for example, the European couple who adopted an Asian (I think Korean) infant, then abandoned her in China as “not their real child” because they started having problems with her.

    The downsides can also be seen in overall colonialization, in the idea that adopted infants should be so grateful that they can’t ever say anything bad about either their parents or the US because they were saved from some horrible fate, as if being colored and discriminated against while also being told that you can’t possibly be because your parents don’t see color ISN’T a horrible fate.

    Yes, some adoption is of people being taken from places where they were loved and wanted (i.e. stolen) and given to white people who pay money for them. Making adoption into some golden, unable to be objected to or even crituqed item – ESPECIALLY in a thread where the main topic is that someone attempted to make slavery into something that blacks should be grateful for, is really inappropriate.”

    **************************************************************

    Aside from the fact that I never said anything about adoption being golden or unable to be critiqued (actually I said it had obvious flaws and is not an issue where one side is only good or bad), I’ll address your points simply:

    Yes, babies are stolen and sold to unwitting adoptive parents (I mentioned it wouldn’t surprise me if it were true, but I wanted to be sure so I looked it up and found that within the past decade it has become an increasing problem. I did not realize this, so thank you for bringing it up). This is unquestionably bad, wrong on every level, and should not happen. On the other hand, there are still unwanted babies and children living without promise of much improvement. For such children adoption is a good thing.

    So to reiterate: I don’t think adoption is a black and white issue. I think some adoptions are good, some are bad, but the idea of adoption isn’t something that can be dismissed out of hand, because for kids (like my mother) who had little/no future, foreign adoption gave them a new life.

    The reason I spoke up in the other thread is because I have personal experience with this issue (do you?). It happens to have been positive. You may not like it, but you can’t invalidate it.

    That said, it’s clear the flaws in adoption laws and practices need to be addressed. In the past adoption has done plenty of good, and I think it still can (and does, when caring parents adopt unwanted children). But these issues are a very serious problem. It just leads me to see that, as with so many things, it really is a very grey area that encompasses both great good and very misguided evil. I happily landed on the “good” side of it, and so I know how beneficial it can be and feel the need to speak up about that. I don’t think it can be dismissed either way.

  45. Stumbling upon this a bit late in the game, but still had to add my two cents.

    I’ve blogged about my experience as a Jew, but some of the thoughts in here have said it much better than I could have.

    99.9% of the time, I am a white girl. I benefit from white privilege. Every once in a great while, anti-Semitism smacks me in the face, but in general, as someone above pointed out, it is certainly not institutionalized.

    I think, though, that that one tiny bit of the time where I am reminded that I am part of a group that some people hate makes me more willing to see racism both overt and institutionalized toward others.

    Which is hard because it makes me turn around and reflect on my own white privilege.

    And I joke that my Jewish and Catholic parents gave me a double dose of guilt.

    But guilt doesn’t help. Being conscious, being an ally when I can, speaking out against racism when I see it, and just shutting up and listening to people of color’s experiences does help.

    “I have talked to Jewish people.”

    That just reminds me of this. (Sorry for the shameless self-promotion.)

  46. I also want to add that while I generally identify as white (particularly on this site) in order to acknowledge my white privilege and “mainstream” upbringing, this particular issue directly concerns my Korean heritage. I am Hapa, a half-Korean child of an adopted Korean woman. Not some unrelated white folk trying to derail the discussion — but the direct descendant of one of those babies of color in question.

  47. Ico –

    I had no intention of dismissing all adoption out of hand as kidnapping. If you’ll reread what I wrote, I did not identify the phenomenon I was speaking of as “adoption.”

    Your family’s experience is, of course, valid. You don’t need me to tell you that. But I think most of us would agree that Madonna’s adoption of the little boy from Malawi was nothing short of kidnapping in its shadiness, and hers was only the most public example of what is a longstanding practice internationally and domestically.

    Also, I am very much in agreement with Deoridhe’s comment about the rhetoric around transnational adoption, which I and many others often find problematic. The savior complex that many adoptive parents have has a direct link to US and European hegemony, colonialism and white privilege. I do not have the right to speak to the experiences of transnationally or transracially adopted folks, but many of their testimonies about cultural erasure, racism, dislocation and enforced gratitude are as real as your family’s story. Like Deoridhe says, dying in a dumpster and being adopted by a nice white family are not the only options.

    If you’re interested in other perspectives on transnational and transracial adoption there are many places on the web to read them. I can suggest some, if you’re interested – just ask.

  48. “I had no intention of dismissing all adoption out of hand as kidnapping. If you’ll reread what I wrote, I did not identify the phenomenon I was speaking of as “adoption.””

    Katie,

    That is what I wondered. Sorry for misinterpreting — I got your comment mixed up with another remark that had been made on adoption further upthread. They had nothing to do with each other; I just mixed them up. That was my bad.

    Re: the subject of adoption, I’ll reiterate, again, that I am aware it can be problematic. I think the industry that has recently sprung up around foreign adoption is insidiously evil, and has perverted many good intentions. I didn’t know about this industry before, so I’m glad you and Deoridhe brought it up (because I know well-intentioned people who are adopting or want to adopt, and they should be made aware of this). And obviously there are a plethora of experiences surrounding international adoption, from good to bad. I’ve read some experiences of adopted children whose parents are tyrannical, racist, etc.; that sort of thing shouldn’t happen and is definitely wrong. But I’ve also known good people who have adopted children and love them. That isn’t something that can (or should) be denied.

    So I’ll also say, once again, that while international adoption certainly has its flaws, I refuse to see it dismissed as yet-another-evil-perpetuated-by-white-people (not that you were doing this, but it’s what I thought you were doing at the time). Such a reading of it would be wrong. I KNOW international adoption can and does have good effects because my entire existence and personal history was founded upon it. As such it concerns me very personally, and I won’t see it disparaged as something that’s generally evil or wrong because such a reading is, IMO, laughably one-sided. And furthermore such a reading would completely DENY my experiences and those of others like me. I believe in the good intentions of people, of many adoptive parents, because I am the result.

    So, are there problems? Yes. Is the stealing and trafficking of babies just about one of the most evil enterprises that has ever sprung up? Yes. Is adoption bad? No. No.

    Sure it can be, but let’s not paint with a broad brush. It can be good. It can be bad. I think it’s broad enough to encompass both the best and the worst in humanity, from benevolence and kindness to colonialism and racism, and the variety of experiences that come in between.

  49. Ico –

    I get where you’re coming from, but I think that you can acknowledge that the dominant narrative around adoption, domestic or international, is that it is a pretty saintly, helpful thing to do and that the children adopted should be thankful to grow up in the US. Transnational adoptees are fighting to tell their own stories, and when those stories do not fit the dominant narrative, they are being actively censored (for example, on the NYT adoption blog, as many fine bloggers have covered). I think you are not acknowledging that these “sides” – the dominant narrative and the testimonies of transnational adoptees – exist with a vast power differential.

    Also, no one’s trying to paint all transnational adoption with a broad brush. Damn right, there are some people whose adoptions work out great on both sides. But to make the conversation include those nice white folks who adopt with the purest of intentions, to refocus the conversation on the GOOD and to imply that the conversation needs *balancing* somehow, seems to me to be the exact opposite of what the Thank You, White People thread was about.

  50. Katie,

    I was unaware of the censorship of stories on the NYT adoption blog. I am sorry to hear about that; it’s wrong and it shouldn’t be happening. I agree with you about the dominant narrative.

    But I disagree with your statement that “no one’s trying to paint all transnational adoption with a broad brush.” This was the distinct impression that I got from Deoridhe’s comments to me even after I had acknowledged that I’d misread your post, along with the sense that my voice should not be raised in discussion on the topic if I was going to disagree. Which strikes me as rather ironic, given the subject directly concerns my personal history as a biracial woman, and not, I suspect, yours or hers. At least where this issue is concerned, I dare say I have a right to a voice.

    Because I saw something I perceived to be as a sweeping mischaracterization (incorrectly, as it turns out, but I didn’t know that at the time), I spoke up. That may not have been in keeping with the spirit of the thread, but if someone is going to make pronouncements about a subject concerning *my* history, of course I’m going to speak about it. Or would you rather I be silent?

  51. I’m not getting into this conversation. Obviously we disagree about the tones of the posts and the nature of the conversation. I would like to convey that I had no desire to see you silenced, and honestly, would I have the power to do so even if the desire had been there? It’s not my blog!

    Your right to a voice is NOT in dispute, as far as I’m concerned. I thought that what I was doing was acknowledging narratives other than the dominant one, on a thread dedicated to just that.

  52. […] thread and this thread got me thinking about passing. In the first one, a discussion of male privilege in the gay […]

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